The Appeals Court of Copiapó province in Chile's northern Atacama region issued an order on April 10 completely suspending work at the massive Pascua Lama facility, an open-pit gold, silver and copper mine under construction in the Andes on both sides of the border between Argentina and Chile. The order was in response to a complaint filed by five communities of indigenous Diaguitas in the Huasco Valley; the residents charged that the work was damaging the Toro 1, Toro 2 and Esperanza glaciers and contaminating water resources in the area, according to Lorenzo Soto, the communities' lawyer. The Chilean government's National Geology and Mining Service (Sernageomin) and the Environmental Evaluation Service have also found environmental damage from the project. Construction is about 40% complete at the mine site, which is under the control of the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation.
After months of struggle, 112 Haitian workers laid off last year by a coconut processing plant in the southern Dominican province of San Cristóbal learned on April 1 that they had won their suit for severance pay and back wages. In a March 18 decision that wasn't made public for two weeks, San Cristóbal Civil Appeals Court president Juan Procopio Pérez ordered the company, Coquera Real, and its owner, Rafael Emilio Alonso Luna ("Billo"), to pay 10 million pesos ($243,015) in back wages and 30 million pesos ($729,042) in fines for "non-payment of benefits over a period of 10 years." The court ordered the immediate seizure of Coquera Real's property to guarantee payment, as the company has declared bankruptcy.
Dozens of Dominican activists demonstrated outside the Supreme Court building in Santo Domingo on Feb. 18 to protest a contract the government signed with the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation for the Pueblo Viejo gold mine in Cotuí in the central province of Sánchez Ramírez. The group called for the court to declare the agreement unconstitutional. Critics say the Dominican Republic will only receive a fraction of the proceeds from the mine while the country will be left with the job of repairing the environmental damage. Opposition deputy Juan Hubieres, who was leading the protest, charged that the government of former president Leonel Fernández (1996-2000, 2004-2012) received US$37.5 million in 2007 to repair the damage caused by the previous management of the mine, the state enterprise Rosario Dominicana, and eventually collected a total of US$75 million. Fernández "will have to explain to the country in what way this has been employed," Hubieres said.
The Justice and Transparency Foundation (FJT), a Dominican civil organization, has filed for an injunction against a contract the government signed with the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation for the Pueblo Viejo gold mine in Cotuí in the Dominican Republic's central province of Sánchez Ramírez. The mine, a joint venture of Barrick and the Vancouver-based multinational Goldcorp Inc., opened last August despite strong opposition from environmental groups. It is set to begin exporting gold in February.
On Jan. 19 a group of Haitian immigrant workers reached an agreement with international organizations and Dominican authorities to leave an encampment they and family members had maintained in front of the Dominican Labor Ministry in Santo Domingo since Dec. 14. The 112 mostly undocumented workers said they were owed a total of 15 million pesos (about US$368,550) in severance pay and benefits after two coconut processing plants, Coquera Kilómetro 5 and Coquera Real, in nearby San Cristóbal province went out of business.
More than 100 Haitian immigrant workers and their family members remained encamped in front of the Dominican Labor Ministry in Santo Domingo as of Jan. 10 to demand severance pay and other benefits they say they were owed when two coconut processing plants in nearby San Cristóbal province went out of business. According to the workers' lawyers, the owner of Coquera Kilómetro 5 and Coquera Real, Rafael Alonzo Luna, declared bankruptcy in an irregular form and denied benefits to employees who had worked at the plants for up to 14 years. Conditions at the encampment, which the workers have maintained since Dec. 14, were said to be deteriorating, but the group's spokesperson, Elmo Ojilus, said the workers planned to continue their protest.
A large crowd of Dominicans, mostly youths, demonstrated in the Plaza de la Bandera in Santo Domingo the evening of Nov. 17 to protest a "fiscal reform" package proposed by President Danilo Medina and passed by the Congress the week before. The government says the package, which will raise the country's sales tax from 16% to 18% and will establish some new taxes, is necessary to make up for a deficit of 187 billion pesos (about US$4.704 billion); the protesters charge that they are being made to pay for wasteful spending by former president Leonel Fernández (1996-2000, 2004-2008 and 2008-2012) and are being subjected to an austerity program demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Some media reported that thousands participated in the Nov. 17 action and described the demonstration as the largest yet in the two weeks since the anti-austerity protests started.
Dominican medical student Willy Warden Florián Ramírez was shot dead on Nov. 8 as police attempted to break up a demonstration by students at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD) protesting a "fiscal reform" that the Chamber of Deputies passed that day. Police reportedly used tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition as masked students threw rocks at the agents and at passing cars. According to the human rights organization Amnesty International (AI), witnesses said police agents shot Florián and then used tear gas against people who tried to come to his aid. Police officials claim a video shows a masked protester firing at police agents. At least three other students, two police officers and a bus ticket collector were injured in the clashes. (El Diario-La Prensa, New York, Nov. 8, from correspondent, via La Opinión, Los Angeles; AP, Nov. 9, via Hoy, Dominican Republic; AI press release, Nov. 9)